Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Vitamin that Doesn't Exist

I'll admit it, I'm a rubbernecker, especially when it comes to viewing the scary information that people put on their blogs.  I went down a really frightening "I've got to stop reading this but I can't" path today on a blog that was not only filled with a lot of nutrition woo but also commentaries on home-births and why women should stay with their abusive husbands.  I'm not even going to link to it so that I don't give her blog more traffic than necessary, but I do want to talk about how she mentioned that she will never have cancer because she and her husband are eating apricot pits on a daily basis.  Why apricot pits?  Because they contain something called "Vitamin B17" or Laetrile.

I will have to humbly admit that this one was new to me.  Fortunately, our friends at Quackwatch have already written about this topic fairly recently.  I give you the article that details the wild and crazy history Laetrile/Amygdalin and the people who have advocated for it.  And let me highlight this quote from the post:

"The results of the trial were clear-cut. Not one patient was cured or even stabilized. The median survival rate was 4.8 months from the start of therapy, and in those still alive after seven months, tumor size had increased. This was the expected result for patients receiving no treatment at all. In addition, several patients experienced symptoms of cyanide toxicity or had blood levels of cyanide approaching the lethal range. An accompanying editorial concluded:

Laetrile has had its day in court. The evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, is that it doesn't benefit patients with advanced cancer, and there is no reason to believe that it would be any more effective in the earlier stages of the disease . . . The time has come to close the books." (See the linked article for the citations)
Not only were these people not cured of cancer--several of them were actually poisoned.  Once again, I find it fascinating that people will call medicine "poison" and then willingly poison their own bodies with something else.  (Fortunately three apricot pips per day shouldn't cause an adult to be poisoned, but I do worry about children consuming them and people who do think "more is better."

I also found this post at Skeptic Dictionary about one of the proponents of laetrile, Phillip Day, particularly how he claims that all of us in the medical profession are deliberately with-holding "dietary cures" to make money.  Let me highlight these quotes by the author of the post:
"But it is a long way from these facts to the notion that food alone can prevent and treat all illnesses or that food or the lack of a specific food alone is the cause of all illnesses."  In other words, there is no one vitamin (even those that actually exist) that will keep you from getting cancer, or that will actually treat it once you have it.  I will admit to wishing it was that simple myself on some occaisions, but as Ben Goldacre says over at Bad Science, "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that."

Take home message--you probably aren't going to get poisoned from three apricot pits per day, but there's no good reason to include them either.


No comments:

Post a Comment